How our Artist in Residence inspired everyone at La Fortezza

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As most of you know, this July was the first time we hosted an “artist in residence” at La Fortezza.

Honestly, It was more than I imagined it could be with Steve McKenzie. His passion for learning about the region and everything related to the art and writings and the history here so inspiring to me. I thought he would be the most inspired, but it turns out our intern, Adri, and I were just as inspired as he was. His excitement was contagious.

From the time he arrived, Steve had a vision for his collection. He wanted to use old scripts, typography and maps from the region in his artwork. That was easy to accomplish since Fivizzano has a rich history with books and the written word. We made an appointment with the librarians at the library in the center of Fivizzano and were given full access to the beautiful and amazing collection. The librarians were so excited to share the collection of rare books locked away in the archives of the library. Rare books also line the shelves of a large book room located inside the library building behind a metal grid door that needed to be unlocked for us. There as special guests in the book room, we spent an entire morning perusing the beautiful books filled with rich history and beautiful script.

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One thing we learned was that the reason there are so many books in Fivizzano is that the Lunigiana was the center of the printing between 1470 and 1474. Jacopo da Fivizzano was the first person to work with the typographic characters that were used to print texts by Giovenale, Virgilio, Cicerone, Sallustio and Cornazzano.

In Fivizzano in 1802, the typewriter is invented, and so the story goes, that Carolina Fantoni, a young contessa living in Fivizzano, was going blind. Neither her parents nor her fiancé believed her. Only her friend Turri, an eccentric local inventor, understood. As darkness erases Carolina’s world, she discovers one place where she can still see – in her dreams – yet, she remains isolated from the outside world. Desperate to communicate with Carolina, Turri creates a peculiar contraption for her: the world’s first typewriter. His gift ignites a passionate love affair that will mark both their lives forever. The book The Blind Contessa’s New Machine, by Carey Wallace romantic novel is based on this story.

We learned that there was a handwriting school in Fivizzano as well, so at one time it was the epicenter of all things written in Italy. The librarian pulled book after book, Adri took meticulous notes and Steve photographed maps and script.

We also went to the nearby town of Pontremoli where we toured the Museo Statue Stele Museum. Steve was intrigued by these ancient sculptures from 4000 BC. The museum is gorgeous and is located in a medieval castle that is beautifully designed; we were all really inspired.

Steve’s been super busy in the studio working on his collection. We are so excited to show it to everyone on July 27th here at La Fortezza, our first opening party ever. But after this incredible summer, it won’t be our last! Big thanks to Steve and our first intern, Adri, from Wellesley College. This July has been amazing! Watch for a full recap of our artist in residence on the blog.

To purchase a piece from his collection link here

xx Annette

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